2019-11-16 Boomers and Generation-X

Recently, I stumbled upon a thread by @troodon about the phrase OK Boomer (a disparaging reply to baby boomers, individuals born between 1946 and 1964) from the perspective of my generation (Generation X, people born between the mid 1960s and the mid 1980s).

honestly, given the reactions that the phrase “OK, Boomer” have been getting in the media, you’d think packs of teens have been systematically targeting elderly people for brutal street muggings or something. but, no... it’s just a phrase, and a mild one at that. why is it so upsetting?

because it’s not rebellious or confrontational, which are things older people are used to getting from younger people. it’s straight-up dismissive. and it’s not something we, GenX, the first-generation children of the Boomers, ever had the chance to express.

our rebellion was taken away, repackaged, and sold back to us when we were too young to know what it was for or why it could be powerful. we grew up feeling helpless and hopeless, trapped in a world where we had nothing meaningful to say and nothing useful to do because Doom was Nigh – the ozone layer, nuclear war, the Y2K bug, politicians that hated us sending us off to wars for blatant lies. Boomers got to have their Swinging 60s – we grew up under the specter of AIDS. we were isolated from each other, so we never realized that we weren’t alone. and when we were finally able to get our own voice out into the popular culture, we spoke obliquely of isolation, depression, inward-turned knives.

and when we did manage to rebel, it was seen as the usual childish rebellion against our parents. kids these days! it’s a phase, we’ll grow out of it and grow up to be just like the people who raised us.

but the kids these days... they have something magical: they have a voice, and the voice gives them power, and they know it.

their voices let them speak to each other about their world and the problems they see. it lets them look for solutions that aren’t reliant on their parents or grandparents, not even for advice, not even for opinions. and make no mistake, they’ve noticed the decade of fucking “Millennials Ruined [X]” thinkpieces written by annoyed Boomers, the endless, relentless victim-blaming of slapping down the Kids These Days for the crappy situations they have to deal with and that they had nothing to do with creating.

this is Boomers reaping what they’ve sown. because this is Millenials saying “OK, Boomer... you’ve said your piece. we’re aware of your opinion, we’ve heard your advice. now we’re going to do our own thing. and you can keep talking all you want, but we’re doing something. so why don’t you have a nice big cup of sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up for a god damn change.”

it hurts because it’s speaking truth to power. it hurts because Boomers have built a culture that looks to them as the wise ones, the gatekeepers, the elders with power, and the Kids These Days aren’t playing the game right. it’s not disrespectful or confrontational – it’s a swerve, a dodge, taking a pass on the whole packaged cycle of obedience and rebellion.

and that’s why it doesn’t hurt their parents, us GenXers. I have to admit, if somebody said “OK Gloomer” (heeee) to me I’d have to shake my head, laugh a little, and say “yeah, you got me.” we’re used to being disregarded and silenced. we love you, our kids... but we know better than to try and take away your voice. even if we wanted to, we know we can’t. we can give advice and support, and you can take it or leave it as you will. but you’re the ones who are leading the charge to change the world right now. drive us to a brighter, better future, or drive us off a cliff... either way, we’re proud of you.

OK, Millenials and Zoomers. you’ve got this. 💚

I’ve recently felt similarly uplifted by kids these days demonstrating and feeling uplifted by their optimism. When Fridays For Future started, I felt like laughing. Oh, suddenly people are going to take their concerns seriously? Of course not. I remembered when I was a young kid and nobody seemed to really care about smog in inner cities and the trees dying and acid rain. I was used to getting back the reply that the forests are still standing and where was my pollution now? And I looked at them and thought in my heart of hearts: fuck you and fuck your kids and all your descendants for seven generations you idiot. But I never said it.

I also felt that nobody cared about demonstrations. Did Bush stop the war in Iraq when we took to the streets? Of course not. Fools. I had decided for myself that the world was fucked and I didn’t know how to unfuck it and I would certainly not bring kids into this world to serve me when I’m old and have them stare into the abyss that we were digging for them.

It had never occurred to me that maybe it was simply a question of demographics. We were the first generation after the boomers and of course we would never outvote them! @troodon replied to somebody else in the same thread:

Xers never had the numbers to outvote the Boomers, and it felt like we were being bullied all our young adulthood – “stop hitting yourself!” while preventing us from doing anything about it. but now the numbers are on our side, and what we are watching right now is an Old World Order dying out and being replaced with something new. I hope it’ll be better, I truly believe it can and most likely will be better, but it will certainly be different, and that’s beautiful. 😀

Maybe the future will not be as gloomy as I had concluded all those years ago.

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Comments

@stevefoerster wrote a blog post on the same topic: Focus On What You See, where he argues:

in the epic ’90s sci-fi series Babylon 5, Commander Sinclair remarks, “Ignore the propaganda. Focus on what you see.” To do that requires retraining one’s mind to resist the collectivism of seeing people in terms of the groups to which they belong, and instead think of them first and foremost as individuals, with all the extraordinary potential variety that entails.

A good point! Labels are shorthands to communicate concepts and when I read the post it just speaks to me – so much of it I feel is true. These are words I found to describe myself. To then turn around and pick on boomers in general would be foolish. I agree with Sinclair. 😀

In addition to that, I have often wondered: what happened to the generation of 68 – was all the talk of peace and love just focused on private life? Leaving the political field to the right? Or did the right maneuver the left into the decision of “centrist or terrorist?” (RAF in Germany, for example)

@galaxis reminded me of the fact that “both Boomers and young GenXers drove the peace- and environmental movements during the 1980s.”

@holger joined in and reminded me of the fact that these were “movements … of progressive groups. Enough people were just not part of that or alienated by it.”

A generation is always made up of many people and those whose story get told are not always the victors, and not always the majority.

In any case, I remember that as kids we used to say on the school yard that politics was shit and ideologies were shit and all the -isms were shit. We were totally focused on cultiver notre jardin (Candide, Voltaire). Little did we suspect that the political opposition did not mind this at all. At least that is how I see it now, looking back. And when we did focus on school and work we ended up loving the neoliberal agenda no matter what we said.

@Jens had a different take, arguing that they won. “They shifted the Overton window, thus making themselves centrist.” The example he provided was Jack London who was considered by some to be a leftist and a progressive and yet a racist and a supporter of eugenics. I recommend reading the Wikipedia page.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-02


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